A great work of architecture survives the deplorable attitude of its creator
Tina Fineberg/APThe New York Times City Room blog notes the planned conversion of a 1929 Assyrian-themed structure by the architect Cass Gilbert (best known for the Woolworth and Supreme Court buildings) by a gay Jewish congregation. The
Front door of the proposed synagogue (Wikimedia Commons)
Lest the new congregants imagine Gilbert a latter-day prophet of multiculturalism, it's well to remember that at the time the structure was built he was writing to his son about staffing his firm: "I want to get gentlemen in the organization, not 'kikes,' floaters, and German Jews" [quoted in Sharon Irish, Cass Gilbert: Architect, 97]. Ironically, one of his key early clients in Montana had been a wealthy banker from a German-Jewish dynasty. What Cass Gilbert would have thought of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jewish congregation can only be imagined.
The bright side of unintended consequences is that the greatness of the work survives the often deplorable attitudes of the original creators and is ready for repurposing.